(from their website)
Cooperation Jackson is an emerging vehicle for sustainable community development, economic democracy, and community ownership.
Our long term vision is to develop a cooperative network based in Jackson, Mississippi that will consist of four interconnected and interdependent institutions: a federation of local worker cooperatives, a cooperative incubator, a cooperative education and training center (the Kuwasi Balagoon Center for Economic Democracy and Development), and a cooperative bank or financial institution.
Cooperation Jackson’s basic theory of change is centered on the position that organizing and empowering the structurally under and unemployed sectors of the working class, particularly from Black and Latino communities, to build worker organized and owned cooperatives will be a catalyst for the democratization of our economy and society overall.
Cooperation Jackson believes that we can replace the current socio-economic system of exploitation, exclusion and the destruction of the environment with a proven democratic alternative. An alternative built on equity, cooperation, worker democracy, and environmental sustainability to provide meaningful living wage jobs, reduce racial inequities, and build community wealth. It is our position and experience, that when marginalized and excluded workers and communities are organized in democratic organizations and social movements they become a force capable of making transformative social advances.
Individuals deeply moved by the Jackson-Kush Plan who are striving to see its vision of economic democracy realized launched Cooperation Jackson on May 1, 2014 International Worker’s Day or May Day.
Mission and Purpose
The broad mission of Cooperation Jackson is to advance the development of economic democracy in Jackson, Mississippi by building a solidarity economy anchored by a network of cooperatives and other types of worker-owned and democratically self-managed enterprises.
Economic democracy provides economic empowerment for all workers, distributors, suppliers, consumers, communities and the general public by promoting universal access to common resources, democratizing the ownership of the means of production, and democratizing all the essential processes of production and distribution through worker self-management and sustainable consumption.
Solidarity economy includes a wide array of economic practices and initiatives that share common values – cooperation and sharing, social responsibility, sustainability, equity and justice. Instead of enforcing a culture of cutthroat competition, it builds cultures and communities of cooperation.
Our Purpose is to create:
• A network of interconnected and interlinked cooperatives and worker owned enterprises in Jackson, Mississippi that will expand economic opportunity, promote sustainability and build community wealth by creating jobs with dignity, stability, living wages and quality benefits.
• A foundation for the revitalization of the working class communities of Jackson, Mississippi based on stable employment, wealth equity and sustainable means of production and distribution.
• A institutional vehicle to promote broad public understanding of economic democracy, the foundations of solidarity economics and the principles of cooperatives and how cooperative and worker owned and self-managed enterprises work to benefit workers, their families and their communities.
• A institutional vehicle to educate and train working people in Jackson, Mississippi to successfully start, finance, own, democratically operate and self-manage a sustainable cooperative enterprise.
• A model that will encourage and enable workers in other cities and municipalities in Mississippi, the South and throughout the United States to implement their own initiatives to promote economic democracy, solidarity economics and cooperative development.
Cooperation Jackson is the realization of a Just Transition vision decades in the making. Its roots lay deep within the struggle for democratic rights, economic justice, self-determination, particularly for people of African descent in the Deep South, and dignity for all workers.
We look forward to working in solidarity with progressive forces throughout the country on this transformative project and encourage people to stand directly with us in this effort by joining or forming a Friends of Cooperation Jackson chapter in your area.
Overview: Why Cooperatives? Why Jackson, Mississippi?
Cooperative businesses are unique from other types of commercial enterprises in that they exist to meet the needs of people, not to maximize profits. They often form to address the unmet needs of working people - be they producers, workers, consumers, or purchasers – and to provide them with the goods, services, cultural engagement, democratic rights, and political autonomy needed to live fully empowered lives.
Cooperatives put capital (wealth) in the service of working people, rather than making working people subservient to capital. They do this in part by:
• Democratizing the processes of production, distribution and consumption • Equitably distributing the surpluses produced or exchanged • Creating economies of scale • Increasing bargaining power • Sharing costs for new technology • Gaining access to new markets • Reducing individual market risks • Creating and obtaining new services • Purchasing in bulk to achieve lower prices • Providing credit under reasonable terms
The working peoples of Jackson, and Mississippi in general, are beset by numerous unmet economic and social needs. They lack jobs, living wages, workers rights and access to affordable high quality foods, health care, and housing to name but a few critical unmet needs.
Mississippi is the poorest state in the union of the United States. In 2013 it possessed a median household income of $37,095. The City of Jackson is one of the poorest metropolitan cities in the United States, with a median household income of $33,434 and a poverty rate of 28.3% between 2008 and 2012. Jackson’s “official” unemployment rate stood at 8.0% as of August 2013 according to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, its “real” unemployment rate however, is estimated to be above 25%.
Beneath its chronic unemployment and impoverishment, Jackson, like many urban centers, is struggling to overcome decades of economic divestment, deindustrialization, and suburban flight fostered by structural racism and major shifts in United States and global economy following World War II. These economic and demographic shifts have left Jackson with a declining tax base, chronic under and un-employment, poorly performing schools, and an antiquated and decaying infrastructure.
The question arises, how can we address these systemic and structural problems? How can we take proactive, self-determined action to meet our needs and improve the lives of Jacksonians? Cooperation Jackson believes that a long-term strategy of coordinated social action led by working people to create economic democracy and a solidarity economy via the development of cooperative enterprises specializing in sustainable means of production and distribution is a central part of the solution.
The multinational corporations that dominate the regional, national, and international economy are only interested in short-term gains and maximizing profits, not in producing quality high paying jobs for working people. If we are going to secure the jobs and resources needed to live with the full complement of our human rights, we believe we must do two things: 1) create cooperative economic enterprises and institutions that serve our own needs and interests and 2) create and/or support social movements struggling for economic justice and democracy against the narrow interests of multinational corporations and the increasingly ineffective and unsustainable policies of the national governments that define our modern world.
Our ability to address both needs is very real and practical in Jackson, Mississippi. This is why we are building Cooperation Jackson.
The Story of Cooperation Jackson
Cooperation Jackson is the realization of a vision decades in the making. Our roots lay deep within the struggle for democratic rights, economic justice, self-determination, particularly for Afrikan people in the Deep South, and dignity for all workers.
Cooperation Jackson’s vision is a direct outgrowth of the Jackson-Kush Plan. A cornerstone of this plan puts forth a bold agenda to create jobs with rights, dignity, and justice that generate wealth and distribute it equitably based on the principles of cooperation, sharing, solidarity, and democracy. This agenda is focused on building strong social movements to upend the structural inequities that continue to plague Jackson and the State of Mississippi.
Cooperatives and other forms of worker-owned enterprises or community collectives have a long history in Mississippi, particularly within the Afrikan community, as an institutional part of the struggle for self-determination, economic justice and democratic rights. Cooperation Jackson draws from this history of struggle and the well of inspiration and knowledge it produced. We draw on the inspiration provided by democratic leaders like Fannie Lou Hamer and her work to build the Freedom Farm Cooperative.
We are also deeply inspired by the history and work of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. This Federation, amongst others, laid the foundations upon which the overall initiative to build a dynamic cooperative and democratic economy in Jackson, Mississippi stands upon.
Building on these foundations, Cooperation Jackson is seeking to accomplish a major breakthrough for the Cooperative Movement in the South by becoming the first major network of predominately worker cooperatives to be established in an urban area. While it will undoubtedly take years, if not decades, for Cooperation Jackson to consolidate itself and grow to scale, we believe we possess the potential of becoming the Mondragón or Emilia-Romagna of the United States, and in the process transform the lives of working class Jacksonians.